Women in Business features all-female executive panel

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2016

By Amanda Raymond


Female leaders talked time management, leadership skills and succeeding in male-dominated fields during a panel on Thursday.

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce held its Women in Business event at St. John’s Lutheran Church. The monthly meetings provide inspirational messages, mixers and networking opportunities for professional women.

This month, the event featured a female executives panel with Dari Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, Elaine Spalding, president of the Chamber, and Penny Greer-Link, women veteran program manager at the Hefner VA Medical Center. Greer-Link is also the chairwoman of the Women in Business event.

The first question asked of the panel was how they balanced their career and their families.

Caldwell said she learned early in her career that she could not do it all.

“I decided that I would sacrifice other things in order to have a housekeeper because … when I was away from work, I didn’t want to spend all of my time cleaning the house and not be able to spend that time with my children,” she said.

Spalding said she had to learn to include her husband in her career decisions. When she was deciding on whether to move to Salisbury, she said she made sure the community was arts-friendly for her artist husband.

“I really wanted to make sure that it was a community that he wanted to move to,” she said.

Greer-Link said prioritizing responsibilities is important, and one of those priorities has to be personal well-being.

“If we can’t take 30 minutes to an hour out for ourselves, then we’re not going to be any good for our husbands and our children,” she said.

The panel then talked about how they developed their leadership skills.

Spalding said she started taking on leadership roles at a young age.

“I think taking those leadership roles early on and you just learn and grow and develop into that,” she said.

Caldwell said she found that there was something to be learned from both good and bad leaders.

“Every single opportunity to interact with that person is a learning opportunity where you can start to say, ‘What do they do well? What do they not do so well?’” she said.

Greer-Link encouraged the crowd to never pass up on a challenge.

“I don’t shy away from assignments, regardless if I think I can or cannot do it. There’s nothing I don’t think I can’t do. I just have to jump in and say, ‘Let me try this,’” she said.

After a couple of more questions, the audience was able to ask questions of their own.

One audience member asked how the women dealt with working in male-dominated careers.

Caldwell said when she was first made chief operating officer, a board member told her to do the job “just like a man would do it.”

“I was just stunned. And I said, ‘Well, I actually thought I might do it better than a man,’” she said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Alexander talked about a time when she had to assert her authority at a construction site. She said she was able to get the workers to stop using foul language around her by reminding them who approved their paychecks.

“From then on, they said, ‘Here she comes, the steel magnolia,’” she said, making the audience laugh.

Another attendee asked how the women deal with emotionally taxing situations.

Caldwell said trying to resolve the situation can help relieve some of the stress. She also said showing emotion and compassion is not a weakness.

“I think being a woman, I think you can be a tough business woman and you can be very, very effective, and you can still cry. You don’t have to not show emotion,” she said.

Greer-Link said she relied on her faith to help her through difficult situations, and she also likes to talk things through with her husband.

“At the end of the day, you do the best you can do and that’s what we have to live with,” she said.

The discussion ended with the women sharing pieces of advice with the audience.

Caldwell and Alexander talked about sharing some aspects of their jobs with their children and families.

Caldwell said she would present situations that she might be facing at work, without going into too much detail, to her kids while at the dinner table.

She said her children, now older, said, “We learned so much from your experiences at work.”

Alexander said she would take her son along with her while driving around to survey construction sites, and she and her husband would bounce work ideas off of each other.

“I think including (work) and integrating it, and then you don’t have to worry so much about balancing. It’s not all here and all there,” she said. “It’s just life all meshed in together.”

Spalding said she always lists out the three most important things she has to do the next day so that she can tackle those first.

Greer-Link advised the audience to always influence people in a positive way.

“The only way it can be positive is if you feel good about yourself and you feel confident in your ability to do what you need to do, and not only what you need to do, but also what you want to do,” she said.

The next Women in Business event will be on April 25 at the Heritage Room at 118 E. Council St. from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.